Improv Game: Ding!

“Ding” is one of my favorite games, both to play and also to use as a tool to show people how to apply improv lessons to business and life. You can see a video example along with more explanation below the written description.


The purpose of this exercise is to practice staying in the moment, letting go of ideas, changing direction quickly, and flowing with your creativity.


In this game you will tell a story but a partner will periodically force you to change your story and to move into a new direction.

How to Play

Do this with a partner. You start out as the storyteller. Your partner can either clap his hands or if he has a bell, he can ring a bell.

You begin telling a story; however at any point your partner can clap their hands or ring the bell. When he does you have to stop, go back, and repeat the sentence you just said but change it so that something is different. You could say anything at all as long as it is different. As long as your partner keeps ringing you keep changing. For example if you start, “Once upon a time there was a girl who had a pet dog.” Ding. “There was a girl who had a pet cat.” Ding. “There was a girl who had a pet mouse.” Ding. “There was a girl who had a pet llama.” You keep repeating as long as he keeps ringing the bell or clapping his hands. When he stops you continue to tell the story but only with the last thing you said.

So in this example, the dog, cat, and mouse would be gone but the llama would remain in the story. Continue to tell the story about the girl and her llama. Keep going and at the next point the partner can ring or clap again forcing you to change. In this exercise you are telling a story but you constantly change directions from what you planned.

Improv Tips and Things to Remember

The key is that as soon as the bell rings you should start talking, repeating the sentence, and change it by saying the first thing that comes to mind—do not over think it. The game is painful to watch when someone pauses every time they hear the bell or clap. They try to then think about where to go.

To make this game effective you have to incorporate the random things you say. In the example above if the story starts with the girl and her dog and it changed to the llama, then some people would quickly get rid of the llama and bring the dog back into the story. For example, “The girl had a llama but she didn’t like it so she got rid of it and got a dog.”

Now you’re back on your original track. That’s a way of not flowing with the change but fighting against the change and keeping you within your box. Work on whatever randomness your mind throws out due to the bell or the clap and incorporate it to move the story in a new direction.

Improv Lessons

This is not the easiest game in the world. It takes practice, but ask yourself, “How did you feel every time the bell rang?” Did you freeze like a deer in the headlights and regroup your thoughts? If that’s the case then chances are you’re not staying in the moment and instead are thinking ahead as to where the story is going. When the bell rang it broke you out of your thought process. This is one of the main reasons people have trouble with control. Rather than being in the moment they are living in the future. When something unexpected happens it throws them out of whack because they are lost in a future which can’t happen anymore.

Practice doing this game to the point where as soon as you hear the bell you can change on a dime. As you get more advanced in this game you can incorporate new random ideas but still tell good stories and move the story in the direction you want it to go… which is really the essence of letting go of control.

It is not so much about abandoning all of your dreams, ideas, and plans. It is about being so flexible that no matter what happens, you can adapt to it. As you get more refined you may still achieve what you want without being rigid.

Here’s an example along with some more instruction:

(see more videos)

Practice doing this game as it is one of the most fun games you can play if you are willing to throw yourself into it.

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